Pfizer (PFE) - Get Free Report shares extended gains Monday after the drugmaker said it's preparing to boost production of its Covid antiviral treatment to combat the potential impact of the newly-discovered Omicron variant.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNBC Monday that the drugmaker has committed to making 80 million doses of Paxlovid, its developing antiviral, up from its prior forecast of 50 million.
The antiviral treatment may continue to be an effective defense against the variant, which was first identified in South Africa, even as scientists remain concerned that it may be resistant to both vaccine structures and natural immunity.
Bourla also said that Pfizer has created a new template that could speed the development of a new vaccine to combat Omicron if needed, adding the drugmaker has the capability to make as many as 4 billion doses next year.
The Omicron variant carries a spike protein -- the basis for infection -- that is vastly different to that which current vaccines are designed to neutralize, health authorities have said, and is mutating quickly.
Scientists and health officials have yet to determine if Omicron is vaccine resistant, with the World Health Organization cautioning that it could take "several weeks" to assess its full potential.
Pfizer shares were marked 2.3% higher in early trading Monday to change hands at $55.21 each. The stock hit an all-time high of $55.70 early in the esin mid-day trading on Friday.
Earlier this month, Pfizer said it will sell around 10 million of its Paxlovid treatment, which is currently being reviewed for Emergency Use Approval (EUA) by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, to the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
At $530 per tablet, the cost is around 25% cheaper than the $700 price agreed with Merck & Co. MRK last month to buy 1.7 million doses its 'molnupiravir' treatment of "mild-to-moderate Covid in adults who are at risk for progressing to severe forms of disease, or hospitalization.